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Kent director of cricket Paul Downton talks youth policy and new signings

Director of cricket Paul Downton insists Kent are committed to developing young players.

Kent have signed Hardus Viljoen, 30, for the T20 Vitality Blast and Ollie Rayner, 33, for the remainder of the Specsavers County Championship season, this month.

Downton hopes their experience will supplement the youngsters in Kent’s squad.

Zak Crawley
Zak Crawley

“We’re excited to have Ollie on board for the remaining championship matches,” he said.

“To have an experienced spinner with over 300 first-class wickets will balance out our side, and we’re looking forward to him potentially making his debut at Tunbridge Wells (against Nottinghamshire on Monday).

“The point on this is that from a championship point of view, we’re very keen to continue to invest in young players.

“We’re absolutely focused on developing the best young players in Kent and ultimately want to become self sustaining, but where we’ve got gaps we have to be smart with the people we bring in.”

Zak Crawley currently leads his Kent team-mates with the bat, the 21-year-old entering this week’s game against Somerset with 406 first-class runs at an average of 40.60 this season.

He is followed by 20-year-old Ollie Robinson who sits on 361 runs at an average of 40.11, while Matt Milnes and Harry Podmore, both of whom are 24, head up the bowling unit with 26 and 24 wickets respectively.

Downton added: “Recruiting Hardus (Viljoen) to our T20 squad gives us a very strong bowling attack with three players coming in, in Mohammad Nabi, Adam Milne and Hardus.

“With the bowlers we’ve got we should be in a position of strength to rotate the bowling attack and pick the best side for each game, we’re very ambitious in T20 cricket and are in it to win it.

“We had a difficult Royal London tournament, at one stage we had 11 players affected by injuries or illness so thankfully we’ve got through that now.”

Meanwhile, preparations for the Hundred tournament are ongoing, with the Kent and Surrey team still waiting to find out its name.

“At the moment that’s an ECB decision, talks are ongoing,” admitted Downton.

“Of course it’s important that everybody feels comfortable with the name of the new team. There are lots of details to sort out, but we are keen to work with Surrey to make the new competition work.”

Downton also offered praise to Kent Women, who won the Women’s County Championship title with one game to spare.

He said: “Women and girls’ cricket is really important for Kent, traditionally we’ve been very strong and having not won the championship since 2016 it was great to see the women dominate again.”

Read more: All the latest Kent sport news

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